Nick Fuller was a gifted athlete in his youth, but when his interest in competitive sports eventually faded, he attributed it to a lack of coaching in the “mental game.” This would spark him to attain a Master’s Degree in sports psychology and fuel his desire to help athletes win the mental game — in sports and in life.

In Nick’s early career he trained U.S Army soldiers to improve their performance during international deployments. He traveled to Army and Air Force installations in locations such as Germany and Korea teaching performance psychology and resilience.

Interestingly, it was an episode of Shark Tank that inspired him to apply his expertise to his own entrepreneurial venture. In 2019 Nick sought assistance from the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in growing his business, The Tactical Mind. He became a member of the StartUp Lewisburg business incubator, with plans to host in-person counseling sessions with athletes in downtown Lewisburg.

Unfortunately, three months after starting up, COVID-19 struck. Entire sports seasons abruptly canceled, and he was at risk of losing clients — and his business.

Rebounding: A Pivot from Local to Global

Everything changed when an athlete contacted Nick and asked for a virtual counseling session. Nick had previously focused so heavily on providing counseling in-person that he overlooked and underestimated the potential of online services. At first, Nick was hesitant to offer his sessions through phone calls, as he worried it would limit the experience and effectiveness for his clients. But after taking those first steps, Nick quickly realized that recent advances in video platforms would not only uphold the quality engagement his athletes had come to expect, they would also allow Nick to reach athletes far beyond Lewisburg and central Pennsylvania.

The shift to online operations signaled a turning point, and Nick again enlisted the SBDC to help revamp his marketing and messaging throughout his online presence.

Nick’s improved virtual reach led to an increase in clients, and he soon began an engagement as the exclusive Mental Performance Coordinator across Bucknell University’s athletics programs. Nick’s “online pivot” expanded his reach far beyond youth athletes in Central Pennsylvania, and today his clients also include Olympians and professional athletes in locations as diverse as New Hampshire, Florida… and Tunisia!

With more than 50 percent of The Tactical Mind’s clients connecting with him via virtual tools, Nick now preaches the power of online technology to increase the market size for even the smallest of businesses.

“Being forced to go virtual through the pandemic allowed me to expand from local to global,” Nick said.

Jumping the Hurdle of Social Media

Nick recognized that although The Tactical Mind had increased its client base, there was still another major hurdle to tackle: social media. While challenging to start, a social media presence with cohesive branding can accelerate a new firm’s market reach and engagement. Nick noted that “when you start a business you may be great at providing the goods and services, but you also need to learn so many new skills.” While Nick was confident in his talents and skill as a cognitive performance coach, he needed some time and training to become proud of his Instagram posts!

Student SBDC consultants with skills honed in the Markets, Innovation, and Design (MIDE) major in Bucknell’s Freeman College Management helped Nick transform his social media presence with cohesive branding and strategic messaging. He attributes the increase in quality of his posts to learning to use a design app like Canva, benchmarking his posts with successful brands within his industry, and creating a schedule or “editorial calendar” of when to post.

The Final Scoreboard: Success

Many of the techniques Nick works on with his clients apply heavily to entrepreneurs themselves. Although small business owners may not be struggling with confidence on a football field, the mental game is no different. One of the most frequent issues Nick has seen in the field of sports psychology is an individual mentally trapped with their mistakes, seemingly unable to push past or move forward. This parallels many entrepreneurs’ experiences, and Nick’s advice for other small businesses is to never give up.

“There are a lot of hurdles and a lot of questioning yourself about whether you made the correct decision,” Nick reflected. “But the only way to move past the tough points is to keep pushing forward. Effort is the key to mastery, and we all know that the most successful people know how to fail correctly.”

Despite being the only employee of The Tactical Mind, Nick acknowledges he could not have been successful as a one-man show. Having external support, like the Bucknell SBDC, friends, and family, is critical to happiness and success. And even as his market reach grew beyond the state and country, he also expanded his in-person operations to another regional business incubator, StartUp Danville, located in the DRIVE Professional Building. DRIVE serves as a partner in business assistance through DCED’s Engage! Program, coordinates the local Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) state tax credit program for innovative new firms, and offers an array of high-value economic development services for the region.

Many businesses faced turning points when the pandemic shifted the norms of operation. However, through integrating online services, and accessing the diverse resource network of DCED’s Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance (PREP) program – like The Tactical Mind did — businesses can become more resilient.

Interested in starting your own business, or looking for advice on your current business operation? Visit the PA Business One-Stop Shop to learn more about operating and growing a business in PA. Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn for even more resources to grow your eCommerce business presence.

Maxine Mellin

Maxine Mellin

Maxine Mellin is Student Business Consultant at the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and is majoring in Finance in Bucknell’s Freeman College of Management. She is a Presidential Fellow merit scholar and serves as the Co-Leader of Bucknell’s Women in Finance Club, in addition to recently acting as the Vice President Of Services for the Bison Meals ‘n’ Wheels company in Bucknell’s service project-driven Management 101 course.